Can the exploitation and trafficking of children occur in E-sports?

Can the exploitation and trafficking of children occur in E-sports?

This is the fundamental question that Mission 89, in collaboration with student researchers from the Geneva Graduate Institute, set out to answer in a recently concluded research project.

The trafficking and exploitation of children through sports is well-documented. Whether it is baseball, hockey, or football, the medium of sport is often used as an opportunity to exploit talented and ambitious young athletes for profits, sex, or labour. Mission 89 wanted to explore whether the same dynamics that have made sports vulnerable to such criminal activity could carry over into the growing phenomenon of esports – and whether there might be unique characteristics about this growing competitive environment.

Through an intensive literature review, and interviews with experts from the gaming industry, international organizations, child welfare groups, and academics, it was concluded that esports is, and can be, a ripe environment for similarly chronic exploitative practices to take place.

In the general gaming world, sexual exploitation of children is one of the most common occurrences of exploitative activity. The poorly regulated in-game chats, VPN’s, rapid development of technology, and other game-specific nuances are effectively and efficiently used by perpetrators to coerce, manipulate, and ultimately exploit children through gaming. Moreover, the very nature of competitive esports can encourage exploitative behavior, where the time and money an esport-centric game necessitates leads to the players indirectly doing the work for the publisher, arguably without receiving a fair return.

Although no instances of exploitation specifically through esports was found in the research, there was an overwhelming number of red flags and diverse expert consensus that this is a field that should be paid immediate attention to before it makes the same mistakes other sports have fallen victim to throughout history. Whether it is regulating in-game chats, creating partnerships between publishers, government, and players, educating law enforcement, or educating children about the benefits and potential dangers of esports, what is needed urgently now is increased attention on this potential issue.

The risk is real, and so should the response.

“The overwhelming number of warning signs that have been identified in this research should make the gaming industry pause for a second to think whether they are doing everything within their power to safeguard the children on their platform. This study, a collaboration between Mission 89 and the Graduate Institute of Geneva is just one of a series of research projects that are among the first independent and in-depth investigations into our goal to prevent child trafficking in sport and to put an end to the exploitation of young athletes.” – Lerina Bright, Co-Founder & Executive Director Mission 89

To read the full report, please visit LINK

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